Having been safely housed in a South West of England
Grammar school for innumerable years the overall fabulous condition
of this most intriguing of instruments initially suggested to us
that it was only about 70-80 years old. Our second estimate was
to be in total contradiction. The lack of purfilling, the thin
one-piece semi-swell back, the cello like shoulders and unusual
crescent shaped centre bouts strongly suggested that this was some
kind of transitional instrument that dated right back to the second
half of the 16th century. We were confused to say the least. After
considerable discussion our second estimate seemed the more likely.
In terms of violin history this was a very exciting period, for
there was considerable experimentation taking place in an endeavour
to create instruments that produced much stronger sounds than the
viols that were in current use. One only has to view paintings
and sketches of the period to learn that there were gamba type
instruments of all sizes and forms being used. Even though the
dimensions of this double bass were larger than average for the
period, there was the very real prospect that this instrument was
going to offer us a rare insight into the earliest history of the
double bass. The awe-inspiring form appeared to be a precursor
to the instruments of both Gasparo da Salò [1540-1609] and
his apprentice Giovanni Paolo Maggini [1580-1630] - both recognized
because of their experimental work as highly important contributors
to the form of the violin and the double bass as perceived today.
Following the removal of the table, the workmanship
and materials used suggested that this instrument was most likely
to date from the late 18th century. Can you believe it - right
in the middle of our two estimates. Emanating from Brescia (Northern
Italy - to the East of Milan) or possibly slightly further North
in Bolzano it was here that several generations of the Albani family
were born and worked.
Characteristic of this family of makers is the deep-dark-red
varnish that has oxidized and turned virtually black giving an
appearance of much greater years. We can clearly see by the "tubby"
contours of the table arch that Stainer has had a strong influence
on its maker. The Brescian school too has embraced the form of
this instrument. The timber used is plain and worked as though
done quickly. The curves of the outline are gentle, especially
those of the corners. The volutes of the scroll flare outwards.
The ƒ's slope very much in the manner of da Salò and
the nicks are of the "slashy"
With very little damage apart from a skilfully patched
post crack to the back and a few minor cracks to the ribs and front
the condition of this instrument can be described as absolutely
amazing. When the condition is further considered in relationship
to the instruments age then amazing becomes too insufficient an
adjective. To complement this fine instrument the peg box has been
re-cheeked, new machine heads have been adapted and fitted and
a new neck and fingerboard fitted. Slight re-thicknessing to the
inside table has been necessary and there is also a new bass bar
and new linings.
An instrument of the Italian school that is as intriguing
to look at, as it is inspirational to play.
LOB 42in ( 106.4cm )
St. length 39.75in ( 101cm )